Simple Fitness Concepts

I had a 20 year break from doing building books, about 1980-2000. It started with the book Stretching by Bob Anderson (which went on to sell over 3 million copies), then Galloway’s Book on Running by Olympic runner Jeff Galloway, then Getting Stronger by 4-time Mr. Universe Bill Pearl. It must have been karmic: I tend to look at things as a layman and like explaining things to novices in simple terms.

I’ve been back to publishing building books since 2000, but hanging out with these world class athletes left a lasting impression. Lately I’ve been thinking about the glut of information we’re all exposed to, and I decided to present herewith a few simple principles on the 3 building blocks of fitness — flexibility, cardiovascular training, and weight training.

Stretching Go by the feel when doing a stretch. Try this: lean over from the waist. You don’t need to touch your toes, but go in this direction until you feel a slight tension in the back of your legs. Stay there for 5-10 seconds, and you’ll feel the muscles relax.

Then push a little farther into the stretch. Go to the point of muscle tension, then back off a little and hold it. Relax. No pain!

That’s it. That’s the main principle of stretching. Go into an easy stretch. Hold it and relax. Then stretch a little further.

Running In recent years Jeff Galloway has been promoting the walking break. Take walking breaks during your run. 15 seconds, 30 seconds, one minute. Doing this refreshes the muscles and helps avoid injuries. Jeff has guided a huge number of people (many of them “couch potatoes”) into running marathons by utilizing walking breaks during training. A far cry from the intense training of the ’80s and ’90s.

Jeff says that the greatest single cause of improved performance is remaining injury free.

Weight Training The principle here is called the overload principle . You push the muscles to a point where it starts getting difficult, then stop. Then wait 24 hours and push a little farther. Your muscles will have rebuilt stronger to manage the increased load. In 300 BC, Milo of Croton lifted up a calf on his back every day until it became a full grown bull.


For example, do biceps curls with dumbbells heavy enough so that after say 10 repetitions, it’s getting difficult. Then stop.

Bill Pearl says that weight training is encouraging because of the speed at which you see results. Within a few weeks, you’ll notice improved muscle tone, which will usually motivate you to continue with a program. Weight training will increase strength, improve circulation, and reduce fat.

Summary Just a few simple principles that might stick with you in this era of information overload.

Free info on our website:


Take a break right now and do these 8 stretches at your desk:

Print out and take these stretches along when you fly on an airplane:


This is a classic chapter on running by Jeff Galloway: “The Five Stages of a Runner:”

Weight Training

This is one of the most popular pages on our website, a program of weight training to do at home with just a pair of dumbbells:

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

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